Proposed Goa police law has many defects, says Church

Saturday, January 22, 2011

PANAJI - The Roman Catholic Church in Goa Saturday said the draft state police bill had “several defects” and criticised the select committee of the legislature for not holding public consultations on the proposed legislation.

The Council for Social Justice and Peace (CSJP), a social organisation of the church, in an official communiqu issued here expressed “serious disappointment in the Select Committee of the Goa State Assembly on the Police Bill 2008 which has failed to hold public debates and consultations on the draft Goa Police Bill 2008 and invite public submissions on the type of police service communities want”.

“It is widely accepted that it is untenable to continue to police the citizens of India under the Police Act of 1861, which was drafted by the colonial authorities. We welcomed the initiative to introduce the Goa Police Bill which was intended to provide the people of Goa with better policing, however, the Bill in its present form has several defects, Fr Maverick Fernandes, executive secretary of the CSJP, said.

“It (the bill) does not reflect the principles of democratic policing; it undermines civil liberties, gives additional power to the police without ensuring the requisite accountability. All these factors together ensure that police functioning will not improve and will continue to remain a force that imposes law instead of becoming a service that upholds the law,” he said.

The bill, which was introduced in the state assembly in 2008, had been referred to the Select Committee, chaired by Home Minister Ravi Naik.

“Several citizen groups and individuals requested the Select Committee to hold public debate to gather the say of the people. This has not been acted upon,” Fernandes said.

Civic rights activists and human rights experts have also opposed the bill, which proposes Special Security Zones (SSZs) as well as a State Security Commission (SSC), to lay down broad guidelines for police’s functioning.

NGO Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) said that while the SSZs could be misused by the state government to curb legitimate opposition in areas affected by indiscriminate and illegal mining, the composition of the SSC, as envisioned in the bill, was lopsided in favour of the political establishment.

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